The Best Rhine River Cruise Lines
Choosing a cruise line is like choosing the perfect bottle of wine. The perfect bottle is going to be different for every person. River cruise lines are the same way. There are several cruise lines that sail the river and upwards of 300 ships will travel the Rhine at some point during the cruising season, if you include the local companies as well.
All of the cruise lines have ships and itineraries that range in trip length, price and destinations. Finding the right cruise does not have to be like a needle in a haystack. We recommend researching the top cruise lines first: Viking River Cruises, Avalon Waterways, AMA Waterways, Tauck River Cruises and Emerald Waterways. These will offer the most diverse itineraries and excursions.
If you cant find what you are looking for with these larger cruise lines, then start digging deeper. There are several different smaller, more specialized cruise lines, too many to list really. But you can find a lot of great information on cruise sites like cruisecritic.com and rivercruiseadvisor.com.
Scenic: Christmas On The Rhine
Cost: $4,195Departure Port: Amsterdam, the NetherlandsFinal Port: Nuremberg, Germany
Scenic Cruises Christmas on the Rhine takes the best parts of a typical Rhine river cruise and sprinkles in a little holiday magic. Taking place just once a year from December 21 to 28, this cruise sails during Christmasa memorable way to observe the holiday. The journey begins in Amsterdam, where guests are invited to take a river canal tour or visit the nearby towns of Alkmaar and Schermerhorn, home to windmills that date back to the 16th century. Then the ship will wind its way through Cologne, Rüdesheim, Würzburg, and Bamberg before finally ending in Nuremberg. There are plenty of places in each port to soak up the festive European atmosphere, while making time to pick up a Christmas-themed trinket or two in either Amsterdam or Cologne, Germany.
The moist, but well-drained soil of the Netherlands provides the perfect growing conditions for tulips.
Departure Port: Amsterdam, the NetherlandsFinal Port: Antwerp, Belgium
Taucks Rhine Enchantment intinerary combines two appealing modes of transportation: cruising and trains.
Wrzburg Residence Visit With Court Gardens
This incredibly lavish 18th-century palace was created under the auspices of two Schönborn prince-bishops, Lothar Franz and Friedrich Carl, who brought enormous knowledge and passion, as well as a budget for the best, to the project. Over the course of 60 years, they fostered the creation of a 300-room palace that contains jaw-dropping baroque art. The magnificent grand staircase boasts the worlds largest ceiling fresco, painted by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Portions of the building were damaged by Allied bombing in 1945, but, fortunately, most of the historic furnishings had been stored off-site and key rooms were unharmed, so you can see the originaland matchlessartwork, gilding and statuary. Check out both the spectacular Hall of Mirrors and the imposing Imperial Hall, which boasts a large oval dome and 20 half-columns. Even the gardens have been restored, right down to the topiary fruit trees in the kitchen garden, which are re-creations of the trees grown there in the 18th century.
Note: Visitors may not take photos or videos or carry backpacks inside the Würzburg Residence.
Lets Go: Hike to Festung Marienberg
Perched on a hilltop high above the city of Würzburg, Festung Marienberg is visible from seemingly every direction. Lace up your sneakers and wind your way up to this beloved landmark. As you make your way to the top, youll enjoy the scenery of the Mains left bank and views of…
Würzburg Residence Visit with Court Gardens
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What To Pack & Clothing Tips For A Rhine River Cruise
Be sure to pack a comfortable pair of shoes for walking ashore and, if your mobility is limited, be aware that many river stops involve climbing at least a few steps.
Even in summer, the weather can be iffy, so bring a raincoat or waterproof parka. Extra layers, such as a fleece and a scarf, are also recommended.
While dress is usually fairly casual on a river cruise, you will want to bring something a bit fancier for dinner especially if youre lucky enough to be invited to the Captains Table. A shawl or pashmina is also useful to keep you warm if the dining room gets chilly or outside on deck on breezy sail days.
A nylon tote or small backpack is a good idea if you plan to shop for gifts and souvenirs.
Take earplugs if you’re a light sleeper and don’t want to be awakened by early-morning rumblings as your boat sets off from its overnight stop and makes its way through locks.
Some river ships will supply binoculars in each cabin but check before you go. Theyre great for close-up views of life on the riverbanks and to get a really good look at cliffside castles and other attractions, like the statue of Lorelei in the Rhine Gorge. Pack an adaptor, too, to accomodate your cell phone or other devices in case your ship doesn’t cater to US two-pin sockets.
Romantic Rhine River Cruises
2023 Rhine river cruise departures now available!
Explore one of Europes most beloved rivers, from or to Strasbourg, discover the Rhine on a cruise in the heart of the Romantic Rhine Valley that seems to be straight out of the pages of a storybook. There is a reason why this river still one of the most important and busiest when it comes to river cruising. The Romantic Rhine Valley offers magical and fairy tale landscapes, numerous castles, grand cathedrals, age-old winelands, and picturesque villages to discover along the water.
A cruise on the Romantic Rhine Valley is a must-see and an ideal way to discover fabulous Alsatian and German cities and small towns such as Frankfurt, Rothenburg or Nuremberg. Full of history, natural beauty and fascinating legends, including the Lorelei Rock, Alsace and Germanys folklore await to unfold around you.
Whether you choose to sail on the enchanting Neckar, the romantic Rhine, the picturesque Moselle, or the Saar and its preserved landscapes, your CroisiEurope river cruise will help you discover Europe, on board a boat with exceptional comfort, in a warm and friendly atmosphere and with meals which will delight your taste buds. This is a feast for all the senses. Taste Alsacians renowned white wines and savor the authentic culinary traditions of Alsace and Germany. Stroll along narrow cobblestoned lanes and explore traditional and authentic idyllic villages and their half-timbered houses.
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Rhine River Cruise Port Highlights: Unesco Sites Vibrant Cities & Scenic Sailing
One of the joys of a Rhine River cruise is the variety of shoreside experiences it offers. You can find yourself exploring the cobbled streets of a sleepy medieval village or taking in the sights of a vibrant city, enjoying a lazy afternoon wine tasting, strolling the banks of a tranquil canal or marveling at a splendid Baroque palace or spectacularly spooky Gothic cathedral. Here are just a few of the highlights.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands: The city of cyclists, lovely tree-lined canals, offbeat shops and cafes, and fabulous museums, Amsterdam has so much to offer that most river cruises starting or ending there allow two days to explore the city. Its most famous sites include Anne Frank’s House, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum, but this great city has more than 50 museums and offers many more unusual options. These include the boat-shaped NEMO Science Museum , the STRAAT street art museum and even a museum devoted to cats, Het Kattenkabinet.
Strasbourg, France: With its cobbled streets, timbered medieval houses and the gorgeous canal-laced Petite France at the heart of its Old Town, Strasbourg is one of the loveliest and most fascinating cities in France . Its top attractions include the Strasbourg Cathedral, which dates from 1190 AD and, at 466 feet, is Europe’s tallest medieval building, and the Rohan Palace, where Marie Antoinette once stayed.
History’s All Around You In Heidelberg
In Heidelberg Germany’s oldest university town narrow cobblestoned lanes, shops and pubs housed in 17th-century structures in the Altstadt are kept lively by the cadence of 21st-century student life. On the hillside above the city, visit the romantic ruins of Heidelberg Castle, celebrated in writing by many, including the German poet Goethe and American writer Mark Twain, who both spent time here. Twain wrote about the striking red sandstone ruins of Schloss Heidelberg in “A Tramp Abroad” they were a magnificent residence for Bavarian royalty from the 13th to 18th centuries. The castle is an imposing ensemble of buildings, from different architectural periods, surrounding a central courtyard from its terrace and gardens, the sweeping views impress along with the feel of more than 600 years of history.
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Canals And More In Amazing Amsterdam
Amsterdam is often called the “Venice of the North” because of its elaborate network of canals winding through a romantic historic center of cobbled streets and Dutch Renaissance architecture. A canal boat cruise reveals The Netherlands’s historic capital from the inside , as you glide along 17th-century waterways lined with trees, gabled merchant houses and vibrant urban life. During your visit to Amsterdam, Tauck also includes a tour of the Rijksmuseum, one of the world’s most respected art museums, home to masterpieces of the Dutch Golden Age including Rembrandt’s “Night Watch.”
Gorgeous Scenery On An Amawaterways Rhine River Cruise
As I mentioned, most of our travel was done at night, however, the day we sailed along the Rhine River Gorge, we traveled mostly during the day. The scenery along the gorge is spectacular with over 40 different castles along the way. Our cruise manager John gave a delightful narrative as we made our way up the river. The landscape is dotted with small towns, churches, rolling hills, and castles of all shapes and sizes. If youre looking for a river cruise through Germany, this would be the best route to take.
After the gorge we saw several cities along the river including Cologne and Dusseldorf, followed by Dutch fields and windmills. We had days with snow and bright blue sky days and they were all magical in their own way.
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Exploring Kln On The River Rhine
One of Germany’s oldest cities , Köln was once a Roman provincial capital, and later a wealthy medieval trading port the city was almost totally destroyed during World War II, but many of its architectural treasures have been restored including the towering Kölner Dom , a twin-spired masterpiece of High Gothic architecture that is the centerpiece of the city. With Tauck, you’ll visit this imposing cathedral, along with the nearby Roman Germanic Museum, housing extraordinary exhibits of archaelogical finds from the Köln region.
The Rhine Is One Of The Most Popular Waterways In The World Dozens Of Lines Sail It
From April to October, hundreds of riverboats cruise the Rhine every month — that’s not counting the excursion boats operating short hops along the river for people staying locally.
Some of the major cruise lines operating on the Rhine River include Avalon Waterways, AmaWaterways, Emerald Waterways, Riviera Travel, Scenic, Uniworld, Vantage Deluxe World Travel, Tauck and Viking River Cruises.
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An Exclusive Evening At A Rheingau Wine Estate Overlooking The Rhine
The Rheingau is one of Germany’s most important wine regions, where viticulture dates back to the time of Charlemagne , and where many significant winemaking innovations have been developed over the years. As you cruise through the Rhine Valley and visit the region, you’ll enjoy a Tauck Exclusive evening featuring a special reception, dinner and entertainment at a historic Rheingau wine estate perched in the mountains overlooking the Rhine, and surrounded by vineyards that have been producing local wines for centuries.
Rhine River Cruises Travel Tips
- Double-check you have all your documents for your cruise and air travel, including ground transfers and hotel stays. Make sure names are spelled properly and the dates of birth are correct.
- Learn some of the languages spoken in the Rhine region. German can be especially helpful, as can be learning some polite Dutch phrases. This will enhance your travel experience, even if guides and other travelers speak English.
- Check out a guidebook from the library or review an eBook online that details the Rhine region. Doing so will greatly enrich your trip.
- Resist the temptation to over-pack your travel bag. Remember: storage space is at a premium on most river cruise ships. Also, the more luggage you tow, the more you will burden yourself during transport. The most you should carry should be a carry-on bag and one piece of luggage.
- Pack the things you need immediate access to at the top of your travel bag.
- Pack your travel documents in a small separate bag in your carry-on that you can access easily.
- Make sure you have some Euros on hand for small purchases. Some street-side vendors or cafes may not be able to take credit cards. Also, you will need Euros to tip drivers or guides.
- Usually, it is best to travel in the Rhine region from May through September.
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Planning And Packing For A Cruise Down The Rhine River
Start you trip planning by using my handy Trip Planner.
I use a guide book in addition to blogs. I use the Lonely Planet books, as they are more comprehensive and reliable. You can buy the Germany Lonely Planet here.
When you are ready for your trip, check out my international Essential Packing List so that you dont forget to pack something important.
A key item to take with you is binoculars, as the castles are perched atop the hills surrounding the river and it is nice to see things up closer. Recommend are the Vortex Optics Diamondback 10×42 Roof Prism Binoculars . They are the best binoculars for the money, but you can read reviews and recommendations for other binoculars:
You will want travel insurance. First read my Guide to Buying Travel Insurance.
A great insurance option is Travelex. It has coverage for all youll need. You can swap this link for either choose the best travel insurance plan for your trip here or get a quote right now:
Do you have any other favorite castles or towns to share on this cruise or any other fun facts? Id love to hear them. Comment below.
If you liked this post, please share the love and Pin it to your Germany board!
Read about other boat trips here:
Why You Will Love An Amawaterways Rhine River Cruise
Having never been on a river cruise before, I had no idea what to expect. My husband and I decided that an AmaWaterways Rhine River Cruise would be the perfect way to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We thought a river cruise would make for a unique celebration trip and we were right!
*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that we have recommended. Please check out our disclosure policy for more details. Thank you for your support!
**We were guests of AmaWaterways for the purpose of this review. As always, opinions are 100% our own.**
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When Is The Best Time For A Rhine River Cruise
The season runs from early April to early October. The summer months are the peak seasons, and are very busy. April to June are the rainiest months. September is lovely and dry.
The other best tome for Rhine River cruises is around Christmas. There are some Saturday cruises in November and December for Christmas. The castles are often covered in snow and many villages have Christmas markets. I didnt do this myself, but it sounds lovely. You can book a Christmas cruise here.
Where To Stay In Koblenz
I stayed at the Altstadt Hotel Koblenz.
It was right on the main square. This was the view from my room:
There was a restaurant downstairs and breakfast was served there. The only downside was that church bells chimed loudly. But I loved it.
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Discovering Siegfrieds Whimsical Musical Legacy In Rdesheim
Housed in a centuries-old castle in the charming Rhine Valley wine town of Rüdesheim, Siegfrieds Mechanisches Musikkabinett really must be seen and heard to be believed. Its the legacy of the late Siegfried Wendel, who founded his first museum dedicated to antique self-playing musical instruments in the 1970s. The current Musikkabinett in the 14th-century Brömserhof displays Siegfrieds mesmerizing collection of mechanized musical clocks, player pianos, fairground organs, self-playing violins and many more including the worlds largest automated doll orchestra!
The Verdict: Best Rhine River Cruises
The Rhine, Germany is stunning and the best Rhine cruises go through this section of the river for a reason. The castles were beautiful, but it was the gorgeous villages that took me by surprise.
Were I to do this again, rather than taking the day trip Rhine River cruise, I would stop off along the way and explore some of the villages.
|Authenticity of experience|
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The Rhine River Day Cruise
The River Rhine cruise starts in Koblenz. Of course, you can do it reverse and end in Koblenz, or do the trip both ways.
The castles and villages listed below are described by the bank they on while travelling FROM Koblenz. Of course, if you are travelling TO Koblenz, everything will be on the opposite bank.
In addition to the Koblenz Rhine River cruise, trips up the Moselle River also leave from Koblenz, another choice for short River cruises in Germany. It is worth spending a little time in this town. There is a lovely village and a cable car across the river to the fort opposite.
09:30AM Schloss Stolzenfels Castle
The first main castle you see is one of the most spectacular German castles on the Rhine.
Schloss Stolzenfels was originally a fortress castle built in the 13th century. It was in ruins in 1823 when it was given to the Prussian crown prince, who then rebuilt it as a palace in Gothic Revival style.
Its beige color and multiple crenelated turrets make it one of the most beautiful castles in the Rhine Valley and the perfect way to start the cruise.
09:40AM Martinsburg Castle, Oberlahnstein
The lovely little village of Oberlahnstein is dominated by Martinsburg Castle. The castles main feature is a heavy hexagonal tower dating from 1324. The main wing is from the 18th century in gothic style, with white walls and a black roof.
10:05AM Braubac and Marksburg Castle